Hong Kong slow on tackling employee overwork

Growing awareness of the issue in Japan has led to government and HR reforms, but Hong Kong lags behind its neighbours

Hong Kong slow on tackling employee overwork

Unionist politicians slam the Hong Kong government for its slow efforts at solving the country’s persistent problem of overwork. Government figures found that tens of thousands of employees work an average of 75 hours weekly.

The government has been studying the link between long working hours and sudden deaths to determine the right course of action, said secretary for labour and welfare Dr Law Chi-Kwong.

Lawmakers said the government has done little to improve labour welfare, including regulating standard working hours.

A committee was set up in 2013 to study the need for standard working hours. They have been in talks with employers and labour unions to determine the amount of time workers should dedicate to their jobs.

However, the culture of overwork is deep-seated within the Hong Kong society, rather than an effect of any one cause.

Employees tend to be fierce competitors of each other and working after office hours is something expected in the country.

The city’s competitive business environment is another issue that politicians believe the administration has been slow to tackle, reported South China Morning Post.

In Japan, the growing rate of death by overwork, or “karoshi”, has led to new labour laws, including overtime caps of up to 100 hours a month and 720 hours a year.

With growing awareness of the hazards of excessive exertion at work, companies have been taken to task over labour violations. The most prominent of which is Dentsu, an international public relations company.

The firm however, was merely slapped with a token fine of $6,060 for causing the karoshi-related death of a 24-year-old employee.

Another media company, NHK, has promised to undergo serious reviews and implement workplace reforms after a widely reported case of the death of a 31-year-old journalist who clocked 160 hours of overtime the month before.

Critics have pressured the Japanese government to draft new caps as the current hours remains dangerously high.



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